Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: Israel’s 'Cyber Unit' and Extra-legal Content Takedowns

Jen Patja Howell, Evelyn Douek, Quinta Jurecic, Fady Khoury, Rabea Eghbariah
Thursday, April 29, 2021, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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Odds are, you probably haven’t heard of the Israeli government’s “Cyber Unit,” but it’s worth paying attention to whether or not you live in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It’s an entity that, among other things, reaches out to major online platforms like Facebook and Twitter with requests that the platforms remove content. It’s one of a number of such agencies around the globe, which are known as Internet Referral Units. Earlier in April, the Israeli Supreme Court gave a green light to the unit’s activities, rejecting a legal challenge that charged the unit with infringing on constitutional rights.

This week on Arbiters of Truth, the Lawfare Podcast’s miniseries on our online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic talked to Fady Khoury and Rabea Eghbariah, who were part of the legal team that challenged the Cyber Unit’s work on behalf of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab and Minority Rights in Israel. Why do they—and many other human rights activists–find Internet Referral Units so troubling, and why do governments like the units so much? Why did the Israeli Supreme Court disagree with Fady and Rabea’s challenge to the unit’s activities? And what does the Court’s decision say about the developing relationship between countries’ legal systems and platform content moderation systems?

Jen Patja Howell is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Evelyn Douek is an Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Senior Research Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School on the topic of private and public regulation of online speech. Prior to attending HLS, Evelyn was an Associate (clerk) to the Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel of the High Court of Australia. She received her LL.B. from UNSW Sydney, where she was Executive Editor of the UNSW Law Journal.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Fady is a Palestinian lawyer pursuing his S.J.D. degree at Harvard Law School. He is a civil and political rights attorney at the non-profit human rights organization Adalah.
Rabea Eghbariah is a human rights attorney completing his doctoral studies at Harvard Law School. He worked as an appellate public defender before joining the Haifa-based Adalah Legal Center, where he argued major Palestinian civil and political rights cases.

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